Creag Ruadh and Dun da Lamh – 5 January 2020

Eleven brave souls pitched up at the car park by Balsporran Cottage at Drumochter, possibly enthused by new year resolutions or possibly just not having seen the MWIS dire forecast for the day.  The cloud crept down the mountains and the wind gusts drove the rain into our faces as we exchanged new year greetings.  By a unanimous show of hands we agreed to seek something lower and a bit more sheltered. Dougie’s option of heading straight for coffee was voted down – we were made of sterner stuff.

And so we adjourned to a very pleasant walk in Strath Mashie from Feagour, near the Wolftrax Mountain Bike Centre, through Black Wood.  Our first objective was Dun da Lamh, an early Pictish hill fort from around 400AD which sits high on a crag at the north-east end of Black Craig above Glen Shira and the River Spey to the north and Strath Mashie to the south.  The remains of the walls are up to about 2m high and up to 7m thick, so it must have been a very impressive structure.  

Black Craig

We wandered along the top of Black Craig sheltered by very nice stands of Scots pines, and it was only when we exited the trees to squelch up the Graham, Creag Ruadh, that we were exposed to the rain and wind. Normally, there are fine views from Creag Ruadh, but today all that we could see was that the summit was adorned by a tall cylindrical trig pillar, which as you will all know is called a “Vanessa” rather than the familiar Hotine design of pillar.

A wet summit party on Creag Ruadh with Vanessa

We scurried off into the shelter of the forest, which turned out to be a bit more interesting than we anticipated with obstacles of wind blown trees, and a rather special line in dead trees which toppled when given a gentle nudge. That led to some nifty footwork from Wendell and Arthur as they stood, momentarily mesmerised by one such trunk heading towards them.
We rounded off an excellent day with coffee at Wolftrax.

Participants: Arthur, John, Dougie, Wendell, Dan, Michael, Irene, Robin and potential members Charlotte, Brian and Carol.

Carn Chuinneag and Navigation Course, 8 December 2019

The six Corbetteers – three members and three prospective members – started up Glencalvie from the end of the public road near Glen Calvie Lodge.  One hundred and seventy five years earlier, Glencalvie had been the site of one of the most poignant episodes in the clearances when eighteen families from the glen were evicted and sought refuge in the nearby Croick Churchyard. Some of their names and messages can still be seen scratched on the church windows.

The track up Glencalvie made for fast walking and we were soon at the start of the fine stalkers path which ascends the north spur of Carn Chuinneag’s west top which surprisingly, does not seem to have a separate name.  We had hoped that the spur would provide shelter from the strong south westerly squalls of sleet and snow. We were to be disappointed.  However, from the west top we had the wind at our back as we headed to the summit in cloud and driving snow.  No-one in the party took any photographs whatsoever and we quickly set off down the lee side of the north ridge, trying to glean whatever shelter we could.  Soon we were out of the cloud and heading down to Glencalvie again. Passing Diebidale Lodge we idly speculated about it being a fine location for a club outing. But at £3000 per week, we quickly put that out of our minds.

Navigation course with Mountaineering Scotland

The navigators had equally poor weather and combined some desktop work on avalanche awareness and winter route planning with navigation practice in the forest around Glenmore Lodge.

Some of the take-aways which the team shared are the need for winter route planning that takes account of weather patterns, recent wind directions, slope aspect and slope angles in assessing avalanche risk. The SAIS avalanche reports have now started for this winter, and their “Be Avalanche Aware” app and website provides really good advice on planning winter trips and the things to be aware of throughout the day.  The team were also introduced to an excellent app called “Fatmap” which provides 3D satellite images of terrain, which can be overlaid by filters like slope aspect or slope angle.

… and at night!

The value of bothy bags providing group shelter was reinforced, and the need to vary pacing counts to take account of darkness, ground conditions, snow cover and slope  were all brought firmly home – in the dark, in the forest!  Thanks to Dougie and Irene for these take-aways.
Carn Chuinneag group: Ewen, Robin, Arthur, and prospective members Charlotte, Maria and Brian.
Navigators: Dougie, Dan, Kirsty R., Irene and George.